Rugby: Aucks coach points to value of the bench

By Dylan Cleaver

Auckland Coach Mark Anscombe. Photo / Getty Images
Auckland Coach Mark Anscombe. Photo / Getty Images

If one of the key philosophies behind modern rugby is that it is a 22-man game, then Mark Anscombe is one of its most devoted disciples.

The Auckland coach believed the injection he received from his bench players played a large part in the subjugation of North Harbour last week and he expected a similar impact against Waikato tomorrow.

There were some positions, he said, that you simply couldn't expect players to give maximum effort in for 80 minutes week in, week out.

"Graham Henry has gone on record and talked about the halfbacks, I believe there's a few other positions as well," Anscombe said. "Loose forwards, for example. They really work themselves hard in today's game. They're in the contact zone all day and get their bodies knocked around. If it all goes well you have 15 games of rugby and you can't beat them up week after week and hope they're still standing at the end.

"You have to look at the bench and have confidence they will be able to inject themselves into the game and bring something to the team."

While numbers 16 to 22 are increasingly important to coaches, it is still jerseys 1 through 15 that players covet.

"Everyone still likes to hear their name read out in the starting line-up," Anscombe said. "They know they will have a role to play off the bench and understand that, but players still like to run out on the field when the game starts."

Anscombe has made just one change to his side for tomorrow's match against Waikato, with Matt Berquist starting at No 10 and Ash Moeke dropping to the bench.

It is a further indication he liked what he saw at North Harbour Stadium.

"We had a good-enough performance, there's still enough work-ons though," he said.

"We want to be pretty consistent with the team, particularly to start with."

Waikato coach Chris Gibbes, also a week-one winner, has made a couple of enforced changes to the squad who beat Bay of Plenty, with Dominika Waqaniburotu joining the loose forwards as Liam Messam returned to All Black duty.

Jackson Willison's hamstring injury in week one has seen Christian Lealiifano moving into second five-eighths and Sosene Anesi dropping back to fullback and Henry Speight going from the bench to the wing.

Gibbes was pleased with the character shown at Waikato Stadium.

"The focus for our training this week has been around correcting the little errors that let us down at important times in the game," Gibbes said. "We learnt a lot about ball retention and we have been working hard building that area of our game this week."

AUCKLAND v WAIKATO
Eden Park, 2.35pm tomorrow

AUCKLAND
Brent Ward
Atieli Pakalani
Ben Atiga
Jamie Helleur
Chay Raui
Matt Berquist
Toby Morland
Peter Saili
Daniel Braid (c)
Onosa'i Auva'a
A. van der Heijden
Kurtis Haiu
Charlie Faumuina
Tom McCartney
Tevita Mailau
Reserves: Ash Dixon, Pauliasi Manu, Liaki Moli, Chris Lowrey, Brenton Helleur, Ash Moeke, Dave Thomas.

WAIKATO
Sosene Anesi
Henry Speight
Save Tokula
C. Lealiifano
Dwayne Sweeney
Trent Renata
Brendon Leonard
Steven Setephano
Jack Lam
D. Waqaniburotu
Romana Graham
Toby Lynn
Nathan White (c)
Al. de Malmanche
Toby Smith
Reserves: Vern Kamo, Hikairo Forbes, Matt Vant Leven, Alex Bradley, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tim Mikkelson, Sam Christie.

- NZ Herald

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